2023 REVIEW: 10 POSITIVE OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN THIS YEAR
Abei* and his mother Alim*. Abei was diagnosed with pneumonia and treated by a Save the Children community health volunteer. He was diagnosed thanks to an innovative bead necklace. Photo by Save the Children
LONDON/GENEVA, 21 December, 2023 – From disease-fighting necklaces in Kenya to bee-boosted livelihoods in the Solomon Islands, here are 10 positive changes for children that happened in 2023:
- UN recognises children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment
In a major win for child campaigners – including some who have been supported by Save the Children and partners – the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child recognised children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
Governments will need to recognise that inaction on the climate crisis is a child rights’ violation, factor environmental concerns into their efforts to protect and fulfil children’s rights, and empower and protect child activists, thanks to the landmark UN document published in August.
- Hundreds of children’s lives saved from pneumonia in Kenya thanks to a clever necklace
An innovative bead necklace is revolutionising the detection and treatment of pneumonia for children living in remote areas of Kenya, saving nearly 200 lives in the first 10 months of this year.
This low cost solution to the biggest infectious killer for children aged under five helps to bridge a healthcare gap, offering a glimmer of hope in Turkana County, in north-western Kenya, where access to health care facilities and medical supplies are limited.
The "Beads by Breath" project by Save the Children and partners[i] has facilitated the diagnosis, treatment, or referral to health clinics, for 198 children suffering with pneumonia this year. Community health volunteers use beads to count and detect rapid breath intake which is an early warning sign for the disease.
- Save the Children and partners in South Sudan reunite the 7,000th child separated from family by conflict
Simon*, 13, was separated from his family when fighting broke out in Sudan earlier this year. He fled to the South Sudan border unaccompanied, where the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) referred him to Save the Children.
Save the Children staff members recently managed to reunite him with his adult brother Samuel* after three months of separation from family members – bringing the total number of child reunifications the organisation has facilitated in South Sudan since 2017 to 7,000 .
Samuel said: “When we heard that Simon had left our home in Khartoum and the message reached us people were worried. Anything bad could have happened. Maybe he was kidnapped or was shot or anything so for us as a family here, we were so very worried until when we got the news that he reached Renk and then he was received by some people and they were taking care of him.
“We are very happy to see [our] brother who has been lost and in the beginning, people never knew where he was.”
- Bees help remote Solomon Islands communities tackle impacts of climate change
Honeybees are helping to restore protective ecosystems and rebuild families’ incomes in the Solomon Islands thanks to an innovative new programme by Save the Children and local tribal-based organisation Mai-Ma’asina Green Belt.
The project trains local farmers, particularly women and young people, to care for the bees and diversify their income from farming and environmentally harmful practices like logging, to producing honey that they can sell at local markets. In turn, the bees also pollinate the vital mangroves which store carbon, produce food and act as natural buffers to cyclones and storms and protect coastal areas – along with wildlife and food sources such as fish and crabs. The Solomon Islands are one of the world’s most vulnerable places to rising sea levels and other extreme weather events, which harm food supplies and drive hunger in children and their communities.
- Better protection for children’s mental health in the Philippines
Following months of campaigning by Save the Children and other NGOs, in September the Philippine Senate approved a bill on its third reading to improve mental health care and services for children.
The Basic Education Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotion Act – or Senate Bill Number 379 – will see investment in mental health services in schools, including hiring more mental health support staff and ensuring every school in the country has a Care Centre. Children will also have the opportunity to participate in the shaping of the programme via consultations with the relevant policy makers.
Earlier this year, Save the Children spoke out about a shocking number of attempted and actual suicides among Philippine students in the 2021-2022 academic year. According to government figures, 404 students died by suicide during that period, with a staggering 2,147 attempting suicide during the same time frame.
- Caesarean sections made available in Rwanda refugee camp for the first time, saving 200 babies’ lives and improving the health of them and their mothers
Prior to the opening of a medical centre in Mahama Refugee Camp II in April this year, any women facing emergency obstetric complications were referred to a hospital in Kirehe, a town about 35 kms (22 miles) away along extremely bumpy, dirt roads, with the journey taking about 1.5 hours. Many women would arrive at the hospital in advanced stages of labour or have given birth during the journey, putting their own and their baby’s life at risk.
Thanks to the new medical centre run by Save the Children, which can carry out up to three C-sections daily for refugee women and those from neighbouring communities, the lives of at least 200 babies have been saved.
- Web series promotes positive discussions around LGBTQI+ lives in Nepal
A first-of-its-kind web series, 'Becoming', made by and featuring members of the LGBTQI+ community in Nepal and supported by Save the Children and Nepali LGBTQI+ organization the Blue Diamond Society, was launched earlier this year. The series aimed to tackle the way in which LGBTQI+ young people are portrayed in Nepal’s mainstream media – which often paints them as victims.
As well as being viewed on YouTube, the series has had physical screenings in many parts of Nepal, with four episodes in two languages throughout the year. Save the Children said it has reached a total of 28,700 people digitally and hundreds more through physical screenings.
- Positive progress for children at COP28
In a landmark decision for children, leaders at COP28 agreed to an “expert dialogue” on the disproportionate effects of climate change on children to take place at the Bonn climate change conference in 2024. This means for the first time in almost 30 years there will be a formal space on the UNFCCC agenda dedicated to discussing children’s specific vulnerabilities and needs. Save the Children hopes it will mark the beginning of the meaningful integration of children into the negotiations and set a precedent for them to play a more active role in discussions going forward.
Kelley Toole, Global Head of Climate Change at Save the Children, said: “Hopefully this is just the first step towards a COP process that prioritises children’s rights, needs, voices and equity, because the decisions made in climate negotiations today will have a huge impact on them, now and in the future.”
Save the Children is also pleased to see the adoption of a new fund for loss and damage on the first day of COP28. While this is as a step in the right direction towards tackling intergenerational injustice, more needs to be done to urgently fill the fund in order to protect children now and in the future, and to ensure the fund serves the people on the frontlines of the climate crisis, particularly children.
- Protection of schools on the political agenda in Burkina Faso
Protecting schools from attack is now at the forefront of the political agenda in Burkina Faso, thanks to the creation by the government of a Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) steering committee.
As of July this year, as many as a quarter of Burkina Faso’s schools had been forced to close due to conflict, depriving one million children of their right to an education.
Save the Children, which along with other organisations played a leading role in the creation of this committee, said it will provide a conducive framework to promote SSD guidelines, effectively monitor attacks on schools, and above all support stakeholders to protect schools, learners and teachers.
- Foster parenting in Côte d’Ivoire
The government in Côte d’Ivoire has adopted a decree to regulate foster families, so that children who are deprived of care from their biological parents can now be cared for in a family structure rather than institutional care – something that is essential for children’s health and wellbeing, as stated in the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
This is a huge win for children in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly children engaged in child labour and unaccompanied child migrants, who face a range of protection issues. It comes after Save the Children, the Côte d’Ivoire government and other stakeholders piloted initiatives in the field.
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[i] The “Beads by Breath” project was launched in 2016 in partnership with National and County Government Ministries of Health, World Food Program, Action Contre La Faim (ACF), International Rescue Committee (IRC) and UNICEF.